Friday, October 2, 2015

Under the River...

A few weeks ago I decided to spend the afternoon walking along the Elbe River. I was at the main train station, having just lunched with a longtime family friend who happened to be passing through Hamburg, and I was unfamiliar with the immediate area. My phone data plan was dead, so I’d gone old school and had a paper map of the city with me.

Normally my sense of direction is ok, but the buildings on this particular map were not oriented to how they sit in real life, so after about 20 minutes I gave up and just followed the street signs to areas I knew were in the right general direction.

Entrance to the Old Elbe Tunnel on the central city side
I passed some of the attractions that are on my Hamburg bucket list and wandered through the Landungsbrücken (pier) area, which was in a high frenzy getting ready for Hamburg Cruise Days. Apparently that was set to start in just a few hours, so I hightailed it over to my end goal: the Old Elbe Tunnel.

The tunnel was built in the early 1900s to connect the central city with docks and shipyards across the river. It’s just wide enough for one car and a pedestrian lane in each direction and is still used today, although obviously not as a main means of getting across the Elbe.

If you're feeling adventurous you can take the stairs

After a quick elevator ride 80 feet down I stepped out to the cool air underneath the Elbe River.

The tunnel is decorated with river-themed tiles that I admired while trying to stay in the pedestrian lane and out of the way of bikes and the occasional car.

An example of one of the terra cotta tiles
Not a lot of room to spare

View of Hamburg from the south side
After a quick pop up to the surface to see the city from the other side of the Elbe, I went back through the tunnel and marveled at what they achieved a century ago, how far we’ve come since then, but how little people themselves change.

All around me were others enjoying the novelty and simple pleasure of a stroll under the river on a warm fall day.

I’m looking forward to discovering similar enjoyable moments in the future.

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